Nova Scotia

Baddeck pharmacy ban on sugary drinks prompts Ontario study

'I'm not aware of anyone else in the country who's doing this,' University of Waterloo scientist says

Parenting Obesity Landscape

A scientist at the University of Waterloo is studying the effectiveness of a ban on sugary drinks instituted last fall by a pharmacy in Baddeck. (Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press)

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A scientist at the University of Waterloo is researching the impact of a Baddeck pharmacist's decision to remove sugary drinks from his store.

Graham MacKenzie, the owner of Stone's Pharmasave, decided to take beverages like pop and juice off his shelves last fall.

He said it was a matter of conscience because he was counselling people to eat a more healthy diet, but then selling drinks full of sugar.

Leia Minaker, who works at the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact at the University of Waterloo, decided to study the ban as part of her ongoing research into retail food environments.

"I'm fairly familiar with what's going on across the country in terms of people trying to make retail food environments places where consumers are able to make healthier choices, and I'm not aware of anyone else in the country who's doing this," said Minaker.

She wants to find out what's happening with the overall consumption of sugary drinks in the community.

"Do the people in Baddeck stop buying as much pop because it's not available in one of the food stores, or do they just switch their purchases?"

Minaker is working with MacKenzie and the local Co-Op store to examine the data.

Study to look at pop sales

She also asked the local Needs convenience store for its data but they were were not able to give it to her.

They did tell her that so far, their pop sales have not increased.

She said that's part of the limitations of a natural experiment where scientists study the environment with the data they have.

"We do this in public health research because in public health research often we can't randomize the intervention, so it's not the same kind of research as medical intervention," said Minaker.

"We do the best kind of rigorous research with the data that we have available."

Minaker will study the sales of pop in dollars and units from both MacKenzie's store and the Co-Op for the last two years and compare it to current sales.

"Some people I'm sure will just switch, it's not available at the store so they'll go to the Co-Op and buy it if that's what they wanted," said Minaker.

"But a lot of times in our food environments, we're influenced by the marketing cues in the store. It's not like you go into a store wanting to buy a pop if that's not in your mind. It's an impulse buy." 

"My hypothesis would be that people aren't going to Pharmasave to specifically buy pop, they buy pop on the way out the door. So I would suspect that probably overall pop sales would decrease."

Minaker said the results might have implications across the country. 

"Maybe if pharmacies are a health-care setting then maybe we should consider health-promoting products and limiting products that we know are harmful to health," she said.

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